Avro 683 Lancaster
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Avro 683 Lancaster

Most famous of all Avro military aircraft and without doubt the most successful heavy night bomber to be deployed over Europe during World War II. The Avro 683 evolved almost accidentally as a result of recurrent failure of the insufficiently developed Rolls-Royce Vulture engines installed in the twin-engined Avro Manchester.

Owing to delays in the full development of the Vulture engine, the decision was taken in mid-1940 to design a new version of the Manchester with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The first conversion made use of about 75 per cent of the Manchester's parts and assemblies, the principal change being the provision of a new centre-section of the wing with mountings for Merlin engines. This aeroplane became the first prototype of the Lancaster. A second prototype fitted with Merlins and significantly modified in detail was designed, built and flown in just eight months. The first production Lancaster I flew just over five months later, its power plant comprising similar 954kW Rolls-Royce Merlin XX in-line liquid-cooled engines, each driving a three-blade constant-speed and fully feathering propeller. Because of the possibility of some interruption in Merlin production, the Lancaster II was built with 1,229.5kW Bristol Hercules VI radial engines. These fears did not materialise, with the result that only 300 Lancaster IIs were built.

First operational RAF squadron to be equipped with Lancasters was No 44, which used them operationally for the first time on 3 March 1942 - laying mines in the Heligoland Bight. Defended by ten machine-guns and carrying a maximum bomb load of 6,350kg, the Lancaster was - and soon proved itself to be - a formidable weapon in the hands of the RAF, which had, by mid-1942, learned a great deal about night bombing operations over Europe. By comparison with contemporary four-engined bombers it was statistically the most effective, dropping 132 tons of bombs for each aircraft lost on operations; the corresponding figure for the Halifax and Stirling were 56 and 41 tons respectively. The Lancaster was so right, from the beginning, that there were very few changes in airframe design during its wartime service.

Improved power plants, however, provided steadily improving performance: the Lancaster VII, for example, with 1,207kW Merlin 24 engines, had a maximum take-off weight of 30,844kg by comparison with the 22,680kg of the early Lancaster I. Bomb load changed considerably, the cavernous bomb bay being designed originally to carry bombs of up to 1800kg, with a total bomb load of 6,350kg; it was modified progressively to carry the 9,980kg Grand Slam bomb.

The Lancaster will be remembered for its part in two spectacular operations: the breaching of the Mohne and Eder dams on the night of 16-17 May 1943 by No 617 Squadron (led by Wing Cdr Guy Gibson); and the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz. Its contribution to victory in World War II is best measured, however, by the total of 608,612 tons of bombs delivered, which represented two-thirds of the total bomb load dropped by the RAF from the time of its entry into service. A total of 7,366 Lancasters were built (including Mk X in Canada) and the type remained in front-line service with the RAF until 1954. Canada had some photo-reconnaissance Lancasters in service in 1964.

Avro 683 Lancaster

 ENGINE4 x RR "Merlin" 24, 1075kW
    Take-off weight30844-31750 kg68000 - 69997 lb
    Empty weight16738 kg36901 lb
    Wingspan31.1 m102 ft 0 in
    Length21.2 m70 ft 7 in
    Height6.1 m20 ft 0 in
    Wing area120.5 m21297.05 sq ft
    Max. speed462 km/h287 mph
    Cruise speed390 km/h242 mph
    Ceiling7470 m24500 ft
    Range w/max.fuel3600 km2237 miles
    Range w/max.payload1800 km1118 miles
 ARMAMENT8 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 6340kg of bombs

Avro 683 LancasterA three-view drawing (664 x 646)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
Ben Vogel, 22.06.2015

I first flew in a Lanc in 1943 when in the ATC. I flew from Woodhall Spa with Flt./Lt. O'Shaughnessy of 617 Sqdn. It was low=level over dams and reservoirs and quite an experience. I later became a mid=upper gunner on Lancs. and Lincolns.

Bob, 30.01.2015

Shel. Minor correction, the Dambuster raid was also conducted at night, not during the daylight. Which makes the achievement to me even more remarkable.

Elizabeth muscat, 06.06.2014

Lancaster were used before 1942. My brother was a pilot of a Lancaster bomber was killed on the first daylight raid over Milan October 1941

Elizabeth muscat, 06.06.2014

Lancaster were used before 1942. My brother was a pilot of a Lancaster bomber was killed on the first daylight raid over Milan October 1941

shel, 20.03.2014

The Lank was a great bomber...for night raids over Germany. Huge bomb loads. The Dambuster raid was in daylight and about half the Lanks were lost. But, oh the damage they did!
Most RAF night bombing missions were a stream of bombers, maybe 200 miles long. Bombing could last for hours. No formation flying required.
The US 8th Air Force, also flying from England, flew mostly daylight missions, and in tight formations to maximize defensive firepower against attacking Luftwaffe fighters. In a few seconds all the USAAF B-17s or B-24s released all their bombs.
For night missions, the Lancaster was the weapon of choice.

Arthur H Lock, 01.01.2014

I am the very proud Brother of a F/Eng Douglas Lock.over 30
trips Hamburg,Hanover Dresden,few injuries,lots of stories,.
he is still alive, married to the lady who had the awful job
of writing the"Dear John"letters to family's, wonderful couple,all the rest of the 'men served in the army.We were/
are proud English Family

Old Snowdrop, 09.11.2012

My Mother stayed in London, Dagenham for the duration of the war and was employed in the May and Baker factory building parts for the Lancaster, which were then transported to another factory to be put together. She had anear miss with her welding gear and put a rivet through her thumb, but she is now 86 and still going. she gets annoyed when watching the cenotaph march past and alll sorts of people are represented except for the women who worked in the factories through the blitz

John, 24.09.2012

Hey, "Ski", come back and see us now. More Planes, more restoration projects, more flying ops. Canadian Warplane Heritage has grown.

Ben Beekman, 20.04.2012

With all due respect to Sir Godfrey, the Germans never possessed a nuclear bomb at any time during World War 2, therefore the story about the Lancaster flying bomb is bogus. Not only that, but no Me-109 ever built had the range to detach itself from the flying bomb near Moscow as stated and return home to its base in Germany. It might have made it as far as Vitebsk (flying westward) but by then it would have run out of gas. By 1944 when B-17's were routinely decimating Berlin the Eastern front had moved westward into Poland, making any return trip from Moscow impossible. On the map the distance from Moscow to the Polish border (assuming that's where the German front line was located) is about 1,200 miles. the Me-109's range was only about 500 or 600 miles.

Sir Godfrey Lyell London, 12.04.2012

One of the great operations in World War II was stopped when some American B-17's bombed a Luftwaffe airfield near Berlin and destroyed the most interesting Mistel Project of the Third Reich. The Germans had repaired an Avro Lancaster and converted it into a remote controlled bomb. Not any type of Bomb, but a Nuclear Atomic Bomb. On top of this Lancaster was an ME-109, which once reaching Moscow at night would separate and guide the Avro Lancaster into the target, the Kremlin. Then the ME-109 would head for home. It was hoped that Stalin and most of the Russian Army staff would be killed. Suicide Mission? Yes most likely, but it would have been a spectacular fireball!

Manfred den Adel, 11.02.2012

I am looking for the construction drawing of the Lancaster to build it as a model after

ken grant, 15.09.2011

I thought 683 squadron was the last squadron to fly the Lancaster in 1953

bombardier, 25.05.2011

The Lancaster was the best heavy bomber of WW2

bombardier, 25.05.2011

The Lancaster was the best heavy bomber of WW2

Cliff Dabbs, 24.03.2011

In 1955 I, along with a number of other Royal Marine Commandos, flew from Heathrow to Luca airbase in Malta in a Lancaster belonging to Hunting Clan Airways, which had been converted to commercial use. The main thing that I remember was the noise of the Merlin engines. I didn't know that I was flying in a little bit of history!!!

Ben Beekman, 11.03.2011

In replying to Derek Till I would first like to state my admiration for him and anyone who would risk life and limb flying those combat aircraft as they did during the war. Real heros they are and we will never forget their sacrifices in a great cause. My hat's off to you and your mates in the RAF!
As to the performance of the aircraft's radar system, there are many factors that could influence the quality of the radar image. It's true of course that coastlines, rivers and lakes etc. were commonly used as navigational aids by the aircraft crew. These are large ground objects and provide easy to see CRT images for either navigator or bomb-aimer, whoever usually has charge of the radar system. In flying toward large cities that's about all you would need to locate such a large target. It would be hard to miss. However, if the operator was charged with locating something much smaller on the ground a number of factors would now come into play. He would have to be able to detect objects the size of airfields or possibly as small as a building or a group of buildings. In order to pick out these kinds of objects from the usual "ground clutter" seen on the scope the radar system must be functioning as it was designed to function. The radar output pulse shape, beam sharpness and repetition frequency etc. must be within design tolerance; the radiated power must be available to send the pulse toward the target; positioning of both transmitting and receiving antennas on the aircraft must be such as to avoid interaction with propellors, etc. to name just a few. If the antenna is a rotating parabolic type, its adjustable rotational speed mustn't be too fast or too slow or the target could be missed. In addition, the operator must be well versed in setting the radar system's controls to obtain the optimum image on the screen. There are a number of display formats which could be selected in seeking objects or targets on the ground. For example, type P (Plan Position Indicator) is a depressed center, pie-shaped display that's probably used as much as any other. But on nearing the target it might be better to select a B-scan or C-scan display both of which offer a magnified rectangular-shaped scan where targets can more readily be seen on the scope. There are, or were, at least eight or nine possible radar scope mode displays an operator could choose from in order to "zero in" on the object of concern. With the ability of the radar system to perform as specified plus the necessary training and experience of the operator (who is in a stressful combat situation himself, by the way) it ought to be possible to break out targets as small as buildings and airfields on the ground. After all, that's what centimetric wavelengths were designed to do. With wavelengths as short as those of Dr. Randall's secret magnetron oscillator, World War II brought us such technical advances as Bombing-Through-Overcast (BTO) and Ground-Control-Approach (GCA), both of which depend upon an aircraft's adequate detection of relatively small objects on the ground.

Derek Till, 07.03.2011

I'm afraid Mr Beekman's remarks about H2S and its role in bombing accuracy are not supported by my experience. As Pilot, I flew the Lanc for 37 ops on 576 Squadron, 1 Group. H2S was never an aid to the Bomb-aimer -- it was only useful in identifying major ground features such as coastlines, rivers, lakes etc.

Ben Beekman, 09.02.2011

We should also remember the Lancaster as one of the first (if not the first) Allied bombers to be equipped with the newly-perfected magnetron radar bombing system. Capable of spotting finely detailed ground targets,the new system was code-named "H2S" and was considered top-secret at that time. Developed by Britain's Dr. Randall and his associates, the magnetron was able to generate microwaves of about 10 cm. in length which, when transmitted, could display on the aircraft's radarscope a sharply-defined picture of any objects/targets on the ground, large or small. Previous aircraft radar systems functioned with wavelengths much too long to be able to see anything much smaller than buildings. As a result of Randall's work the RAF was able to drop their bombs much more accurately, hastening the war's conclusion.

DickB, 20.12.2010

Jack - what you witnessed at St Mawgan was the official retirement of the Lancaster from operational service.

jack, 11.12.2010

In 1954 I was a USAF aircraft commander flying the SA-16 Albatross in Air Rescue Service stationed in Sidi Slimane, Morocco. We were dispatched on a ememrgemcy rescue mission to St. Mawgan (spelling?) While we were there we witnessed a dramatic ceremony honoring the Lancaster bombers. My (fading) menory says it was a retirement ceremony of some sort having to do with the Lancs. Maybe the base was closing, or maybe a unit was being disbanded. Very dramatic and moving. Anyone remember what the ceremony was about?

1-20 21-40 41-60

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